Review: Medal of Honor (PS3)

Title: Medal of Honor
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: October 12, 2010
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Danger Close
Price: $59.99

(Apologies for the lack of screenshots, my screen grab rig is at Joel’s in preparation for Extra Life)

As a PC gamer for so many years, I’ve been a fan of the classic Medal of Honor series for years. This time around, EA/Danger Close have completely rebooted the series and brought the action to the present-day. Hit the link to find out what I think of the package.

This review will be a bit different from normal, as you’re essentially getting 2 games on the disc (well, actually 3 games if you count Medal of Honor: Frontline HD remake.) The single player game was developed by Danger Close, and uses the Unreal 3 engine. However, the online multiplayer was developed by Digital Illusions (DICE) and uses the Frostbite engine. I’m only going to do one score for the both of them, but I’ll discuss them separately.

Gameplay:
The Single-Player campaign mainly focuses on the teams known as “AFO Wolfpack” and “AFO Neptune,” small, 4-man groups of what are known as “Tier-One Operators” that are used for very specific and high-risk missions in hot zones. Occasionally, you’ll pull away from the Wolfpack to play as a character that they may have come in contact with, be it a gunner in an Apache, or a separate squad that crosses paths with them during the missions. Unlike some other military-based FPS titles though, there really isn’t a “bad guy” that you’re chasing. The story is really more about the fact that there’s a war going-on, and you’re there to clean things up. It never gets bogged-down with politics or with trying to preach anything to the player, and focuses directly on the teams, what they do, and the sacrifices they make to protect the country that they love (and not by getting “overly-patriotic” at all.) It’s squarely about the men and women in the armed forces, and Danger Close does a great job paying respect to what these people do.

The gameplay is essentially your standard military FPS at its core, but the differences lie in the execution. You will definitely see some similarities with elements seen in the Single-Player campaigns for Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company 2, but the story elements keep Medal of Honor out of the Jerry Bruckheimer category and more in line with a movie such as ‘Black Hawk Down’. The action is well-paced, gritty, and at times, insanely intense. The controls have a “weighty” feel to them (not as much as Killzone 2 though) and feel superb, and even includes a running slide move to get behind cover. There isn’t a cover-system, but you can hold L2 to lean left and right from behind an object or wall. A couple of different button layouts are available, along with the ability to switch the Y and X axis’, and sensitivity sliders for both as well (Also, you can toggle the aim-assist, which is very welcome!) When you’re tasked with controlling a stationary gun, or when you take over the weapons in a Apache gunship, again the controls are spot-on and very responsive. You will be very thankful for this the first time that you’re pinned-down in a hut while numerous enemies are battering it with bullets and RPG’s, with no backup available. The folks at Danger Close have done an exceptional job at heightening the tension while still making the game playable at all times, even when it seems you’re against impossible odds.

Unfortunately, the gameplay is not perfect. In at least 3 or 4 instances, I had moments where I didn’t know where I was supposed to be going, and it got pretty frustrating a couple of times. For some odd reason, they are still using the old “tripwire” method of moving your AI partners to the next point. If you get creative with how you approach a situation, sometimes that can throw everything out of whack and even worse, can essentially break the game until you figure out how to trigger the next event. Another annoyance is the enemy AI, which overall is actually pretty good, but you will have the occasional “dumbass” that just stands behind a rock until you kill him. You’ll also have AI partners that just stand-still while an enemy riddles him with bullets until you actually kill the enemy. It’s not especially bad, but it’s still annoying.

There’s also a mode called “Tier One” which allows you to play any level again. But instead of just letting you play the level, a series of challenges are available with online leaderboards, including Time to Beat for each level, amount of knife kills, headshots etc. It’s a pretty nice way to add replay value, and also allows the Trophy Whores out there to go after a specific trophy that they may have missed. Also, to answer everyone’s question, the campaign took me a bit over 6 hours to complete, but that was on normal. I can definitely see this taking well over 7 on Hard.

Visuals
I believe that this is the best looking implementation of the Unreal engine on the PS3. It’s not perfect, but I was continually shocked that this game was running in the Unreal 3 engine. The most prevalent annoyances are twofold, the occasional texture draw-in at the beginning of a scene (I verified that this happens in the 360 version as well,) and the occasional but slight drop in frames, which usually only happens when things get insanely hairy. Other than that, this is a beautiful game, with effects like heat haze, gorgeous shadows, realtime lighting (flares in caves are a sight to behold,) and even blinding sunlight which obscures your vision depending on where you’re looking in relation to the sun (an effect that is very tough to describe.) Everything has a shadow that should, and none have that weird, blocky shadow look like in the Battlefield games. Pop-in is very minimal, and is really only seen in the Apache and ATV scenes. Also, the night-vision effect is the best that I’ve used in a game so far, and I loved using it.

Audio
The audio in both single and multiplayer is quite impressive. The soundtrack is well done, and subtle when it needs to be. It’s your pretty standard “military action game” orchestral fare, but it’s well done and never gets out of hand. The real treat though is the actual sound design. The weapons sound better than in any other game I’ve ever played, and the use of Doppler effects and echo are truly unique and very well done. Voice work is great through-and-through, and use of surround sound is plentiful and awesome! The sound design used in Medal of Honor is one that I hope is emulated by other upcoming titles, because these folks did it right.

Online/Multiplayer
On to the “other game.” Honestly, I was incredibly excited when I heard at E3 that DICE was building the online portion of Medal of Honor. It’s not a secret that I’m a huge fan of DICE (and the Battlefield series especially,) so the prospect was one that I couldn’t wait to try. After playing the PS3 beta for over 20 hours, I was very comfortable with what was coming our way, and I liked where it was going.

As mentioned above, the multiplayer uses DICE’s own Frostbite engine, but unlike the newer Battlefield games, doesn’t include full destructibility. Many people have made comparisons to Bad Company 2, which I feel is pretty inaccurate. There are elements from BC, and a couple of elements from the Modern Warfare games, but where MoH sets itself apart is the streamlining that they’ve done to the scoring system, and with what they’ve done with the maps. I’ll explain.

You’ve only got 3 main classes at your disposal, Assault, Spec Ops, and Sniper. Each class levels-up on its own, so you’re not using a pool of XP (kind-of like it’s done in Bad Company 2.) 4 modes are available from the menu with a Hardcore Playlist available as well. The modes available are Team Assault (Team Deathmatch), Sector Control (Conquest), Objective Raid (Demolition), and Combat Mission (Rush). All are a lot of fun, but the amount of maps available in each mode is a bit anemic out of the box, with 3 available for Combat Mission and 5 available in the other 3 modes. Obviously, this being an EA title, we’ll see a lot of DLC in the future, but it’d be nice to see at least 8 full and usable maps minimum on the disc. It’s still enough to have fun and not get stale, at least for a while, but with only 5 maps, it’s going to get old sooner than later.

The visuals are great overall, with many additions and fixes from what was seen in the beta. The biggest improvement is the lighting, which was noticeable immediately. The Frostbite engine does a great job for multiplayer titles, and it seems to have been improved in this instance. As I said earlier, destructibility isn’t the name of the game here (although some things can be destroyed, such as cover comprised of wood etc.) The added effects such as smoke and blowing dust, along with blinding light from the sun and reflections off of the brings something to the table that hasn’t been experienced in other games. DICE has done an admirable job with making this different enough from the Battlefield series to make it compelling to play. The map sizes are larger than those in Modern Warfare and smaller than those in Bad Company 2. They actually seem similar in size to those in Killzone 2 (still a bit smaller overall), and maybe that’s what attracts me to this so much. 24 players seems like the perfect amount for the map sizes, as any more would result in encounters every five seconds. The action is fast and hectic, and again feels very “streamlined” when compared to the other titles out there. Killstreak rewards pop-up after certain amounts of kills, and gives the player a choice of activating either Offensive (Mortar Strike etc) or Defensive (UAV etc) (the rewards progress as you get more kills) with a simple push left or right on the d-pad.

Audio, again, is top-notch. The Frostbite engine actually has a very advanced sound engine, that even takes your surroundings into account for different effects. Voice chat works very well, and includes options to only hear your team, or just your friends (which is such a nice feature.) I didn’t have an opportunity to try the party system in the full game, since at the time that I’m writing this, none of my friends have the game. It seemed to work well in the beta though, with one caveat being that you can’t add new members to the party unless you drop back to the menu (like in many other games.) A very nice feature included is that you can invite a friend right from the XMB, even if they’re in another game. It’s nice to see more developers using this feature.

Overall, the online play is great. Depending on the server you connect to though (remember, I was playing before most servers were online though,) I did experience that weird lag death, but it was nowhere near as bad as it was in the beta. On a good server though, the gameplay was smooth as silk, mostly. The framerate really never hits a stride over 30fps, and it does dip when the action gets hectic (this also happens on the 360 version.) It never breaks the game however, and is more of an annoyance than anything else.

One item that many reviewers will probably add as a demerit is the lack of Online Co-op or even Split Screen. Honestly, this is a game that probably would have worked, as most of the time you have at least one teammate with you. It’s a disappointment, but personally I just don’t play online co-op, so it doesn’t bother me.

Conclusion
This is a complex review to do, so I hope that I covered what all of you are looking for. Overall, I really love this game. The low number of maps in the multiplayer is probably my biggest complaint, as it pains me that DLC has become prevalent enough to actually force a game to come out with less content than expected to essentially jack the price of admission up artificially when compared to similar games that we were buying only a couple of years ago. The fact of the matter is though, that this game is really fun, both in Single and Multiplayer. While playing online last night, all I could do was wish that my PSN friends had the game so I could play with people I knew and trusted, so I firmly believe that the experience will be even better online tonight when I get home. Kudos to both teams for a successful reboot, and specifically to Danger Close for the manner that they’ve handled this subject matter.

Score:
8.0

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  • A solid review. I absolutely love this game!

  • Anonymous

    Sorry too robotic for me to read. Spice it up an bit and I’ll be back.

  • nice points, solid review. Can’t wait to get my hands on this

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the review Glenn.

  • Tury6

    This game has reviews up and down. Some people love it some just thinks its okay. But I love it.

  • ive played through the single player and liked it although i did find it had a few issues, the main one was the tripwire issues, it can be a pain to hit the right spot to start the next section. For me it slowed down the game. The story line was good but i did find issue with the sections your designed to fail so to speak, the point in question is when your by the mountain and your running out of ammo, not untill your out do you realise that thats what ment to happen. i understand what they were trying to do by making it atmospheric and depserate but felt too obvious once you realised what was going on. All in all i agree with the rating glenn gave, was hoping for better but its a good game none the less, just wonder how it will hold up when CoD comes out.

  • Anonymous

    I loved the beta & when the game first came out I enjoyed it. Completed the single player campaign straight away then dived into the multiplayer, which is what hurts this game.

    Months after it’s release, the game has been forgotten by everyone on my friends list. Why? lack of multiplayer maps. 7 months ago I would of agreed with your rating but now it would be a C-*.

    Lets just hope the next game from Danger Close gets more love on the multiplayer side.

    PSN ID: ChazzH69

    * Not saying you should change any reviews.